The town of Ixopo, a.k.a. Paton's Country is immortalized in Alan Paton's famous novel Cry the Beloved Country, where it is described as being set amongst grass-covered hills that are lovely beyond description. The town is set among KwaZulu Natal's rolling hills about 80 kms to the south of Pietermaritzburg and about 90 kms inland from Scottburgh.
There is an old Dead Men's Tree outside the post office, and it was here that death and funeral notices were posted at the turn of the 19th Century. The Off Saddle Hotel in Ixopo is reputed to be the oldest licensed country hotel in Natal.
The nearby rivers are popular locations for fishing and rafting, kayaking and canoeing, and have many scenic waterfalls.
One of the main attractions in the region is the Paton Express - a narrow gauge locomotive which takes visitors on scenic rides through the picturesque countryside. Also in the area is the Mariathal Mission which was located on the farm originally owned by historical figure Dick King's son. The farm was later sold to German Trappist Monks. They had a mission at Mariathal and wanted to use the farm for food supplies for the St Mary's Seminary. They renamed the farm St Isidor, after the patron saint of farmers.
Ixopo is home to the Bhuddist Retreat Centre which is set on a magnificent 125 country estate. The Retreat is set amongst various small dams, nestled between a number of grassy hills, and forests which overlooks the Umkomaas river as it makes its way through the valley below. Former President Nelson Mandela awarded the retreat with National Heritage status, for their efforts in trying to establish indigenous vegetation and also for their success in providing a natural habitat for the endangered Blue Swallow. Over 100 species of birds have been recorded at the Reatreat.
three courses nearby, which include The
Other places of interest in Ixopo include:
- Alan Paton House
- 80m Qunu Falls
- Mat's Art Studio
- Tim Quirke Art Studio
- St. Isidore Mill Museum
- Ixopo Golf Course